It's all about the science! At least it is in the beginning. Later, comes the money dramas, strategic decisions, clinical trials, patents, regulatory issues - and so on, and so forth.
But with all that growth inevitably comes team growth, and suddenly you go from subject matter expert to rookie recruiter. Where do you start?
When I ask founders about their first efforts to recruit, and which digital tools they have used, the answer is often - email folders, spreadsheets or perhaps a digital drive somewhere. Cheap from a cost perspective, but expensive in terms of time wasted and opportunity lost - you may overlook the best candidate.
There seems to be a perception that recruitment software is expensive and complicated, but this is not necessarily true. There is a host of varied options that suit startup needs and budgets, and the benefits are many, including:
I do not propose to endorse any one system here (though you can find an excellent list here), but it is useful to have a glossary of searchable terms and acronyms for founders to determine which might be best for them.
Job Board: a website where employers can post jobs. Some are generalist sites for all career types, while others are specialised for one industry or even job role. Some require payment, but many are free, especially those run by an industry representative body.
Job Board Aggregator: a website that captures jobs from many boards and re-posts them in one place. Your job ad can be picked up and spread far and wide by an aggregator.
Job Posting Software: a single website where you can post your job once and have it distributed to many job boards, which saves a lot of double entry.
Applicant Tracking System: An ATS is a software tool that combines job posting with the tracking and management of candidates through the recruitment process.
Candidate Management System: A CMS is like an ATS, but has additional functionality to facilitate an ongoing relationship with candidates, allows you to develop your employment brand and attract candidate enquiries between hiring assignments to grow your talent pool.
Vendor Management System: If you are already using external agencies, a VMS allows you to take control of recruitment procurement from outside providers. You can control which agencies you wish to work with, and direct them to present applications through a single channel to avoid duplication and unsolicited submissions.
So how to choose the right system for you? If you have no system in place, it is better to start with something cheap and scalable. Simple, intuitive systems save you external consultancy fees and time for setup.
As an additional benefit, when you organise your recruitment data from the beginning, even if you move to a more complex system in the future, the transition will be much less painful.
I recommend putting some of the terms above into your favourite search engine and see what comes up. Most systems these days are SaaS and cost are constrained by monthly rate and number of users, so they are easy on the budget.
Of course, I have my favourites, but every companies' needs are different. Feel free to contact me to talk through your situation, and I will recommend a selection to consider.
Founder teams often have a special bond. You all set out together and there is a fantastic collegiate spirit. Everyone mucks in equally and everyone is included in the coffee round.
But comes the day when you need to grow - and that is one of those never look back moments.
In biotech and life sciences, the founder team is often made up of friends or colleagues who come from a science or engineering background. You know your subject matter inside out. But what do you know about recruitment, or managing new staff?
No matter who joins your team in the early stages they are going to have a profound impact on your team - for better or for worse. So choose wisely.
But of course, in order to choose, you need a wide selection of excellent candidates to choose from. What is your recruitment methodology? Where do you look? What is your pitch to attract the right people? How do you screen the good from the bad?
When you first go to market, you might find that you have no Employment Brand - the magic ingredient that makes your company an obvious place to work. How do you create one when you have never hired anyone?
Let's say you manage to find and persuade someone amazing to join your team - what happens on day one? Do they have a clear understanding of their role? Do they have all the access, logins, equipment and training they need to do their job properly? How soon will they be contributing positively to your company?
And, once they are working, how will they know if they are working on the right things? More importantly, how will you know?
The good news is that every question posed above has an answer. You don't need a complete suite of HR tools and technologies in place to get it right first time. It does not need to cost a lot in terms of money or time. In fact, do it wisely and it will save you both.
At LUKA BIO we specialise in advising nascent teams on how to set up a stage-appropriate recruitment function to make sure you get it right first time.
For more information contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org for a free diagnostic discussion.
Biotech founders are a special breed.
It requires a particular type of gumption, coupled with an extraordinary level of technical expertise, to take a scientific concept and set out on the long and arduous journey to bring that idea to life.
In my conversations with life science innovators, I have found them to be passionate about their mission - to do some good in the world. This is very much an industry to which we feel aligned.
My colleagues and I come from a different background - a unique mix of clinical medicine and human resources, with a focus on talent acquisition.
We have noticed that life science startups often face a critical inflexion point when they start to hire new team members. As every entrepreneur knows, you usually have to develop skills and systems on a short timescale, just as the need is arising.
HR and hiring skills are no different, and providing advice on this is the sweet spot that LUKA BIO intends to occupy. We aim to help biotech founders develop their HR and recruitment systems to a level that is appropriate for their stage of development.
We can find the right people - recruitment is our core skill.
However, our broader mission is to make sure that our clients learn how to hire and select the right people, successfully onboard them and then set up their new team members for success.
We want to be a partner on your journey to develop and grow as a business, as we grow ours. Let's enjoy the adventure together.
Dr. John Bethell has 28 years experience in health and life sciences recruitment. He is co-founder of two successful recruitment firms employing over 100 staff and delivers training on setting up recruitment systems for start-ups.